"The old growth rainforest here is so beautiful. Of course people would want to come and see it, but creating trails meant that trees would have to be cut down and people would be trampling on the rainforests' root systems," says Hreniuk. " I knew there had to be a better way. I had been taking people up to the trees since I was five. The Original Canopy Tours in Costa Rica was basically a way of using what I did as a kid for free to generate money here for conservation, education and reforestation."
The next two years Hreniuk spent developing his idea literally suspended from the epiphytic branches in the Monteverde Cloud Forest, high in the mountains of central Costa Rica. His plan was to develop tree top adventures that would allow anybody to enjoy a bird's eye view of the rainforest while traveling between the tree tops -- an experience once reserved for a select group of researchers and photographers.
"But in order for the system to work in a commercial application it had to be absolutely safe," says Hreniuk. "It took years to develop a system that would incorporate double reinforced components to protect tourists and be safe for the environment."
Then in 1995, Hreniuk developed a fun, exciting tour that would allow tourists to not only access the canopy of the rainforest in a relatively easy manner but also in a way that they could pass through the system and back to the forest floor safely. Once this was perfected, he patented the idea in Costa Rica as a system of human transport.
"I could not live with myself if anybody got hurt, so every step of the way I have double redundancy on all systems," says Hreniuk. "To a point it is a little ridiculous, but I would rather be ridiculous and be safe."
Hreniuk began opening up his human transport system, later named
The ORIGINAL CANOPY TOUR, throughout Costa Rica.
Because the use of nails or any type of equipment that would harm the environmental elements was not an option for Hreniuk, designing the tours in the different locations was a challenge and an art form.
"The idea to protect the earth's natural resources was, from the beginning,
the goal of this project," says Rick Graham, a biologist, of The ORIGINAL
CANOPY TOUR. "Darren has the ingenuity to give people a truly different
way to experience it in each new project he builds. People come away awed
at what they have just done and tell all their friends about their unique
experience." Rick and Darren, friends in Canada, gave up everything
and moved to Costa Rica with visions of creating a unique experience and
allowing people inexperienced in climbing or rappelling the opportunity to
try something new, help learn about the delicate ecosystems in the jungle
and hopefully do their part to help save the rainforest at the same time.
True to his word, Hreniuk has used some of the profits from The
ORIGINAL CANOPY TOUR to help students go to schools in rural schools, provide
ambulatory care in one community and educate the public about the environment
through his tours in Costa Rica. He also makes it an undisputable point to
hire people from the local communities where each tour is built.
"The whole concept that The ORIGINAL CANOPY TOUR is based on is to offer
visitors a valuable experience that can also provide positive benefits for,
not only the environment itself, but to the people living in the areas surrounding
it," says Hreniuk. "These people are ultimately the custodians
of our planet's richest reserves of biological diversity and by providing
them with a means of making a living relieves the pressure they would otherwise
place on the area just to stay alive."
And as The ORIGINAL CANOPY TOUR grows and expands so does this
educational effort. In addition to the operations in Costa Rica,
The ORIGINAL CANOPY TOUR has franchises in Granada, Nicaragua; Puerto Vallarta,
Mexico; two in Jamaica, which have opened since December; and
another in Belize.
Hreniuk has already set up contributions to the Tropical Education Center in Belize and has incorporated fixed percentages of environmental education contributions into all of his franchise contracts.
"The ORIGINAL CANOPY TOUR has never been just about platforms in trees
nor has it been about the money," says Hreniuk, who is now called the "father" of
the tree top tour. "The reason I went down to Costa Rica is to provide
people with a safe fun activity with the ultimate goal of education,
conservation and reforestation of the area's natural resources. The ORIGINAL
CANOPY TOUR offers our franchisees a very lucrative business opportunity
that generates enough income to easily enable a fixed percentage of the profits
to go back into the endangered zones we take people to see."